Day 40: The Nature of Gethsemane
Just as we don’t go to the cross in the same sense that Jesus did, but are called to take up our cross and die to self, we cannot experience Gethsemane as He did, yet we, too, are called to surrender fully to the will of God. This surrender comes with that agony—that wrestling, striving combat similar to what Christ exhibited. Even if we are committed to the will of God in our lives, there still can be a great deal of anguish in the losses and crosses that accompany yielding to God’s will.
It is appropriate that this should be so, for if our wills were in perfect alignment with His, there were be no surrender or courage in yielding to His sovereignty. Remember, it is not necessarily sin to have a will contrary to God’s on a matter. The sin comes in failing to submit to His will. Because our understanding, wisdom, and foreknowledge is limited, we will always judge a matter without full information. We base our judgment on what we can see, and what feels good at the moment. It is not necessarily sinful, it is just inadequately informed. This leads to instances when God’s superior wisdom and foresight press us to trust Him with another plan—the perfect plan, if not a painless one.
These Gethsemane moments in our lives often come in one of two forms. The first type is when God reveals His will on something in a way that is in conflict or contrast to our own will on the subject, and we are confronted with a choice of whether or not we will submit to God’s will and obey, no matter the cost. The agony here is in allowing the death of our self-will, letting go of what appears less painful, more joyful, fulfilling, or instantly gratifying, to embrace a choice (God’s will) with obvious pain, loss and/or hardship involved.
The other form of Gethsemane is when God imposes His will on us and we have the choice of submission only of our attitude about the experience. The agony in this kind of Gethsemane can involve letting go of bitterness for the loss of control, or of not being given a choice in the suffering. This is the Job agony—loss of livelihood, children, health, friends, spousal support; desiring to justify ourselves before God for the unfairness of the mess. But, like Job, the surrender comes with the acknowledgment that we know nothing in comparison to the One who knows all, and does all things well.
• What are some of the times when you have experienced either or both of these kinds of Gethsemane? What did you learn in these times?
• When your will has differed from God’s, which will did you ultimately choose? If you chose God’s, how long did you wrestle before you did?
• When you’ve chosen your own will over God’s what were the results?
You’ve led me through both kinds of Gethsemane—those where I wrestled with wills, and those where the fight was with my attitude about that in which I had no choice. Teach and refine me in Gethsemanes, and draw me near to You.
by Sheri Cook, Director of Special Ministries